Wildlife First, Bangalore, a conservation advocacy organisation, which petitioned the Supreme Court leading to the closure of mining in Kudremukh, has opposed the move by the KIOCL (formerly Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Ltd.) to enter the eco-tourism sector utilising its existing infrastructure at Kudremukh.
The KIOCL’s Rs. 805-crore plan has secured in-principle approval for its proposed project from the State government, its Chairman and Managing Director Malay Chatterjee said in Bangalore on Tuesday.
In a press release on Wednesday, K.M. Chinnappa and Praveen Bhargav, trustees of the Wildlife Trust, said owing to large-scale devastation caused by mining for 30 years, the Kudremukh area now needed “complete rest” and required urgent ecological restoration in the larger interest of securing the Bhadra waters for lakhs of farmers.
Seeking a rejection of the proposal, they said it must not be subjected to any further pressures under the pretext of luxury ‘eco-tourism’ and other commercial tourism activities that are completely against the law and orders of the Supreme Court.
The Wildlife First alleged that the company had caused severe devastation to the Kudremukh National Park. “… In utter disregard for the law and orders of the Supreme Court, the company is planning to construct an 18-hole golf course, a helipad and facilities for adventure sports, water sports etc….” The release claimed that the KIOCL was not even in legal possession of the area where they are trying to start the project. The mining lease over an area of 4,605 hectares granted to the company lapsed on July 24, 1999. It was never renewed. However, they were permitted by the Supreme Court (IA 670/2001 in WP 202/1995) to continue only up to December 31, 2005, and that too, only in the already broken up area of 1,452 hectares.
It said after December 31, 2005, the KIOCL exhausted all rights even over the 1,452 hectare of public land. Fourteen years after their lease lapsed and eight years after the period granted by the Supreme Court ended, “they are still in possession of the said area within the Kudremukh National Park without a lease. Therefore, their proposal to start luxury tourism using such public lands over which they have no right whatsoever is ab-initio void.”
They said the land use in the said area has already been changed from mining to national park on the orders of the Supreme Court. .
On December 15, 2006, the Supreme Court rejected the plea of the KIOCL to carry out “eco-tourism” and directed that the area must be ecologically restored by an independent expert agency under the paradigm of ‘no or minimal disturbance to the unbroken area, they added.